Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Initial thoughts on Robin Hobb's Writing

When I was a kid I remember trying to read a novel by Robin Hobb and not being able to get into it at all. I have no memory of what that novel was, but my first impression on my childhood thoughts was that I must have been so full of crap that I couldn't see what the author was offering.

Although, I have been burned before by favorite authors. I honestly believed Sanderson could do no wrong only to not be able to read more than 20 pages of one of his novels before returning it in disgust.

Anyway, I have a few initial thoughts on Robin Hobb's writing style, or what I can glean of her style, as I make my way through Dragon Keeper.

I ravenously devoured the first few hundred pages of this novel before I was jolted back to reality (when I come down from coffee I crash hard, and then the demands of normal living: paying bills and journeying to work, etc), and I was impressed by Hobb's world-building and cast of interesting characters.

She has a great mastery of writing characters that at first appearance seem sympathetic and interesting only to turn that on its head and make them petty and detestable, and conceivably, able to turn that on its head again. More impressive to me are the serpents and dragons acting not like humans would, but like the creatures they are. Although it is somewhat upsetting when you feel an immediate attraction to a character only to find that even the best characters are annoying, I suppose this all contributes to very "realistic" and 3-dimensional characters, and these characters are probably some of the most realistic I have ever encountered in their depth, even if that is somewhat annoying sometimes.

On the other hand, it does move somewhat slowly. I cannot imagine reading this at the pace of only 50 or so pages a day, as after having read over 200 I am more than ready for it to progress forward. The pieces have been set-up to move into position for quite a while, and seeing how slowly it moves is sometimes mind-numbing.

The great description that goes into everything is at once charming and bothersome when it is moving slowly and you are more than ready for the next event to fall into place.

That's fine though, that's how practically everyone else writes everything I suppose, and her mastery of description and lifelike characters is nothing less than impressive.

That said, the biggest worry I have moving forward is that the dominoes are set for it to get very soap-opera-y, which is always one of my biggest complaints when it exists. It would be one thing if it actually meant people developing through instead of as a result of conflict, but it usually seems to be just conflict for conflict's sake.

I mean, I enjoy drama and character development and even strife, but when it comes from the characters being petty and "realistic", it churns my stomach and saps enjoyment. It's one thing for some characters to be "realistic", but when it seems like they are all going to be "realistic", it implies that the remaining few hundred pages will be less and less enjoyable as they go on.

I hope to be proved wrong as I am enjoying the story much more than I anticipated and looking forward to reading the remaining three books I have access to in the series.

If you haven't caught on yet, I really don't think of "realistic" characters as being very realistic. Don't get me wrong, I think there are plenty of "realistic" people in reality, but there are also plenty of people that, from a literary critic point of view, would not be overly three-dimensional and literarily praise-worthy in a novel.

In "modern" literature, the thing that annoys me more than anything is when I can see the "art" in the work. I think of this as being masturbatory and reading it feels like seeing a peep show I'd rather avoid. It's one of the things that always bothers me in Quentin Tarentino movies, in spite of enjoying them, they feel heavy-handed.

This is what it feels like reading this Robin Hobb story. It feels like reading literature, not a good story. I have high hopes there is a good story under all of this literature, but I am starting to despair.

I really don't want to sound overly critical, because I am enjoying it so far, but after 200 some pages when the book flap's promised adventure has finally started and all the pieces are together for the first time, this ugliness has started to rear its head and I could not keep quiet about it so far.

You can expect a review on Dragon Keeper by the end of the week.

What are your thoughts on modern literature or Ms. Hobb's style? No spoilers please.